Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Running Time: 121 mins
Mother! is an American film about a woman whose marriage and sanity are pushed to the limits when uninvited guests arrive in her home.
Imagine a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and Mulholland Drive, with a little bit of The Wave and possibly even the Bible thrown in there as well. That’s the deranged brilliance of Mother!, easily one of Darren Aronofsky’s strongest, and of course darkest, outings of all. With a maddening story that will have your head spinning as it rapidly snowballs out of control, it’s a film that doesn’t follow any rules, but goes all out with an original and fiercely exciting story that, while it won’t be an easy watch, makes for something truly striking.
If you’ve seen Requiem For A Dream and Black Swan, then you’ll know that Aronofsky is a director that doesn’t hold back when it comes to showing the darkest of the dark. Those two films, believe it or not, were far more grounded in the real world than Mother! is, despite all of their own strangest moments. However, that’s one of the things that I love so much about this film, the fact that by going a little more far-out, and delving into a slightly more fantastical genre than Aronofsky has before, there’s the opportunity for even more disturbing and shocking drama to come about.
What’s most interesting about the film, however, is that although it masquerades and presents itself as a supernatural horror, it isn’t. The large country house in an isolated field, the odd jump scare, the dark cinematography, all of it points towards a film that’s going to be all about the paranormal, but the fact that it actually isn’t is what really makes it work so well, as the drama and thrills that do occur throughout are made all the more unnerving and disturbing by this overbearingly strong paranormal atmosphere.
The unsettling nature of the film works brilliantly in tandem with a deep sense of isolation that Aronofsky crafts around the main character, played by Jennifer Lawrence. Although there’s the physical isolation of being in a dark house in the middle of an empty field, the strongest isolation is that which is felt between her character and the rest of the people in the film.
It’s hard to really explain without spoiling anything, but the moment when other characters appear in the house, Lawrence’s isolation is furthered significantly, as she’s excluded from a bizarre sense of familiarity and understanding between the other people, a dark and very unsettling tone that’s furthered by ingenious cinematography, always keeping the camera in uncomfortably close proximity to Jennifer Lawrence’s character, but further away from the rest of the cast, heightening the sense that she’s being hemmed in by this both physical and social isolation, something that I found absolutely thrilling.
But unsettling, claustrophobic and isolated is just the beginning when it comes to the darkest and most disturbing elements of this film, as it soon turns into a truly maddening whirlwind of a psychological thriller that, while clearly borrowing cues from classics like Rosemary’s Baby and Mulholland Drive, is quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
As the drama and tension continues to snowball throughout, the film begins to pick up a truly relentless pace, turning into a story that seems to move along at unrealistically rapid speed, with so much getting out of hand in so little time, and yet captivating you with just how mad and deeply infuriating the events are.
Even more impressive is the fact that the film’s latter act, where things really get out of control, doesn’t feel like it has any big twists or shocks. That’s because it moves at such a pace, and develops so bizarrely and organically, with the exact same feeling of a truly horrifying nightmare, that you just accept everything that goes on, no matter how bizarre and confusing it may be at every moment.
From the beginning, you can tell that this is a movie that’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but with its air of mystery and paranormal horror and tension, the opening act is simple and orthodox enough to get most people intrigued. The latter half, however, is what will really prove controversial for many, as the story not only develops into a completely out-of-control and seemingly unstoppable force, but begins to pick up deeply disturbing religious overtones that make things all the more striking. That’s the point where you’ll have to take a bit of a leap to keep up with the movie, but believe me, it’s really worth it for what is a terrifying conclusion.
Finally, let’s talk about the lead performance from Jennifer Lawrence. As I’ve already mentioned, her character stands out in the film simply because she’s put in such an isolated field throughout, with it seeming as if only she is being kept in the dark about everything that’s going on. Her performance is excellent throughout, and although it may seem on the surface as if she’s just screaming her way through, the way that she shows deep distress, frustration and anger in such a genuine and yet still theatrical way is really impressive, and easily captivates you to the point of being fully with her in a deeply confused and distressed state.
Overall, it’s fair to say that Mother! is a film that won’t fulfil everyone’s expectations. Taking an initially mysterious story in strikingly insane directions that nobody could predict, it’s a nightmarish, maddening and intensely disturbing thriller that, thanks to stunning directing from Darren Aronofsky once again, you won’t be able to take your eyes away from, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.4.